Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Evolution of Transport

One of the major status symbols in Beijing is your mode of transportation. It starts with a bike or taking the bus, then goes to subway, cabs, scooters/motorcycles, all the way up to the really nice cars (the black audi being one of the more popular ones).
We've been climbing the ladder, slowly coming up in the world. We started out with some pretty junky second hand bikes (given to us by some very kind friends who were leaving the city), then one of our friends went back to the US and hooked us up with a Giant. These are like the expat-workhorse bikes, although a lot of Chinese people ride them too. Every once in a while I see some Chinese guy in all the competitive spandex wearing one of those futuristic helmets on a Giant roadbike. So awesome.
Anyway, so M had been riding her Giant bike and we'd been living the high life, but it wasn't enough for me. A few of my friends back in the states are Vespa enthusiasts, and I was always way jealous of them. When my Ford Taurus was dying, I almost bought an old restored Vespa off Craigslist. I even went to their place, cash in hand, to buy it, but they changed their mind at the last minute. The anticipation from that failed transaction has left me with a scooter complex. So everytime we'd go to Wudaokou and see all the Korean students cruising around on their electric scooters, I'd long for one of those glorious vehicles.
Fortunately for me, M is a sucker for all things vehicular. She loves train-rides, planes (originally had this as plains...sad that I'm an English teacher), cars, and even scooters. So it didn't take too much convincing for her to go along with it. We paid around $300US for the standard 2 seater "Korean Student" model. I haven't gotten any real pics, but here's my haphazard/artsy shot from our maiden voyage:

It's great being able to scoot around, but it's also a little freaky. Whizzing through Beijing traffic at 35km/h can be nerve-wracking at times. We're living life on the edge here :p. Full freaking throttle.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Nation of Rubberneckers

One of the biggest culture shocks for us and our friends here is the amazingly robust curiosity of people here. Everywhere you go there are pockets of people with their hands carefully tucked behind their backs, waists slightly bent, peering at something or other. Could be an open manhole, or a woman having a seizure (biked past this the other week), or an old woman taking her pet razorback hog for an evening stroll (also an actual event). Often when M and I get on the subway and speak in English, people sitting around will just sit and stare. I guess they have nothing better to do. So I've started staring back. Usually I lose.

Also, last week, M and I were playing Lumines on my PSP and this man was fully leaning over her shoulder watching us play. A spot on the wall opened up, so we moved over there. I could see him craning his neck trying to keep watching, but we were too far away, so I made a comment to M, "That guy's bummed he can't watch you play anymore." A few seconds later, he popped up over M's shoulder to watch for the rest of the ride.

So when I casually mentioned to M, "Hey, I think my next post will be A Nation of Rubberneckers," she threw me a sidelong glance and said, "Subway last night?":

A few weeks ago, we noticed that they had razed our nearby morning vegetable market and started digging an enormous hole. Like one square block big and like 50 feet deep. There all sorts of crazy cranes, drills, earth-movers all digging furiously. When I got back from work that day, I noticed about a dozen people just standing at the subway entrance, which is perched right on the edge of the hole, idly watching the work. Apparently, when M got home an hour later, there were still about a dozen people peering into the hole.

So when a couple days ago I saw these guys standing around, I decided to snap a shot.

Because we live in a nation of rubberneckers.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Blogger went down over here a few weeks ago, and then in the past few days, Twitter has been blocked...I guess June 4th is coming up, a too little emotionally charged for the big guys.

Hopefully this won't hurt our blogging frequency too much more can it take?

For now, I have to use Hotspot Shield to post. Kind of a pain; Hotspot Shield is extremely and unpleasantly spammy.

Oh, China.